Making a Match: How to Find a Qualified Life Coach


You’ve decided your groove has turned into a rut. Instead of greeting the day with positive anticipation, you bury yourself in the covers and wish your life was different. Or maybe you feel like life is ok, but you’re not making any progress toward those goals you once set for yourself. It may be time to call in a coach. But where do you start to find a qualified coach?

The clearer you are about the change you want to create, the easier it will be to find a match with a coach. So ask yourself, “What do I want more of? What do I want less of?” For instance, do you want a career change? Do you long for better work-life balance? Do you want to be recognized as a leader? Do you want to find the time to finally write that novel?

One of my early clients was vice president of an association. After a stellar 20 year career, she was burning out and losing her passion. Her daily commute was a grind, and she desperately wanted a change, but was not ready to retire. In answering the above questions, she wanted more time at home and more focus on the work projects she truly cared about. She wanted less time on the road and less time on the work responsibilities that sapped her energy.

After four months of coaching conversations, she crafted a proposal to her boss to work three days a week, keeping only the projects she loved. The result was a win-win for everyone. The organization kept a veteran employee who continued to add value on her chosen projects, and my client was visibly happier. In fact, people actually came up to her asking what she was doing differently because she seemed so happy.

Once you are clear on how a coach can help you, start your coach search by going to the Professional Coaches Association of Michigan (PCAM) website, I helped start this chapter of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and served as the 2008 PCAM president. Our Michigan chapter now has 115 members from across the state. Both PCAM and the ICF ask their members to subscribe to a code of ethics and strongly encourage coaches to become certified.

In checking out coaches’ profiles on the website, look for the initials ACC, PCC or MCC. These credentials mean the coach has a combination of coach-specific training hours and paid client hours. For three years now, I have held the ACC (Associate Certified Coach) credential. This fall, I will be applying for my PCC (Professional Certified Coach) credential, documenting that I have more than 750 paid client hours and 125 training hours through continuing education credits. The top level, Master Certified Coach, has logged a whopping 2,500 client hours. Although many of us feel like we’ve been coaching all our lives by being a great friend that always listens, there is merit and value in coaches having training in the specific core competencies of the profession.

Besides looking for a coach with reliable credentials, you should also be looking for a “fit” with your coach. Since a coach will be your trusted, confidential ally, you should feel comfortable with your coach’s style. Almost all coaches offer a complimentary coaching session. Use this meeting to see if the coach is truly listening and “gets”
your situation.

Something else to keep in mind: your coach does not need to be an expert in your field (that would be a consultant). However, I have found that if you are looking for a business coach, it is helpful to engage someone who understands business lingo. The less time you spend explaining terms, the faster you can get at the core of a situation.

Also, coaching is not therapy. As coaches we assume you come to coaching as naturally creative, resourceful and whole. Coaching is about moving forward; therapy is looking back. If during the course of our conversation we stumble across an issue that should be handled in therapy, a coach will point that out. I once had a potential client ask for help in creating a more fulfilling life, but said that talking about her marriage was off-limits. Red flag: that was clearly a hotbed of pain. So, I suggested she get some marriage counseling and then we could talk. Other times, I have worked with clients while they were also receiving the benefit and insight
of therapy.

As always, I welcome your questions about professional coaching. In my upcoming articles, I will focus on work/life balance and on coaching tools. In the meantime, here’s to a summer of dreaming big dreams and being in a groove.

Tags: do i need a life coach, how to find a life coach, internatoinal coach federation, life coach, life coach qualifications, pcam, professional coaches association of michgain, susan combs, what does a life coach do


Susan Combs

Susan Combs, MBA and Professional Certified Coach, works with coaching clients to create fresh starts, enhance their leadership skills and increase their confidence. She is an authorized licensee of the Fit Leader's Program. Susan provides one-on-one coaching, DiSC team-building training and manages corporate mentor programs. She lives in Lansing with her son, Max, and their golden retriever puppy. Visit or for more information.

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